Monday, September 30, 2013


There's a local tile company that has billboards reading:

The 70's called, they want their tile back.

No matter how many times I pass that sign, my brain always screams, "Well can I have it?!"

Every generation has a style they live to regret, then come to appreciate after longer passage of time. I would love avocado appliances in my kitchen, or mushroom shaped canisters and cookie jar. Twenty years ago I lived in a house with avocado appliances, and I couldn't wait to move. It had half-wall wood paneling in the kitchen as well, which I hated, but acknowledge it was easier to wash than a wall. Now I have linoleum designed to look like stone. It shows absolutely no dirt-ever. Ugly? Indeed. Practical? Ever so. I wouldn't want to return to the stuff my parents had that required this huge tile polishing machine be run over it once a month.

I have a difficult time imagining the fake wood flooring, and granite countertops ever being a desirable retro-trend, but I never thought I'd feel nostalgic for the things I do.

So if the 70's call your house demanding anything, send 'em over to me. I'll give everything a good home.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Month of Frightening Features

This year, we're celebrating Halloween all month by watching as many scary, classic films as possible. I know, "Classic" is subjective, but bear with me.

I jumped the gun tonight, and watched The Most Dangerous Game with Danny. You should have seen the look on his face when he saw the weird Count's trophy room! I'd forgotten how much I love that movie. You almost forget it was made in 1932, as the camera work is so damn slick.

I want to work this into the film study part of our humanities curriculum, so far I've come up with a short list of films for us to work through, but I could use your help and suggestions. Here's what I have so far:

The Wicker Man (the original, for god's sake you don't think I'd have him watch that horrible remake with Nicolas Cage, do you? That sucked, don't bother watching that one).

The Thing (yeah, the original, what's wrong with you people?)


The Exorcist

The Omen

Rosemary's Baby


And there I'm kinda stuck. If it weren't for the sex, Don't Look Now would be a good one to show, but then again it is a VERY long movie, and even I was checking my watch after two and a half hours.

Alien? Maybe? I'd like to stick to films where there's something to discuss other than, "Oh my god, did you see that? Gross!"

So help me out here. What movies made you gasp when you saw them? I mean, besides Repulsion, because I am not showing that to an eight year old. Fun family trivia-my husband saw Repulsion as a teenager, not knowing anything about the film. He sat down, and (by his account) knew almost immediately, "This is going somewhere bad." He's always been a master of understatement.


Blue 1940's Rayon Dress

(Look! I slung a bedsheet over the shower curtain for a backdrop. It sorta got hung up at the bottom, but hey everybody, I did set design). If you know me it should be obvious that I'm not serious. It should be obvious even if you don't.

Oh, I love this dress. Every time I wear it, it needs a few more stitches of repair. I know it will not last forever, but oh, how I love this dress. When I bought it in the 80's, it was merely old rather than vintage. Over the years, It has lost most of the rhinestones in the neckline and hip baubles, and I've removed two of them that did nothing but snag. Most days, I wear a necklace to detract from the fraying cut-out neckline decoration, but oh, how I love this dress.

With zippers at both the back, and side I have found this dress gives me room for both weight gain, and weight loss. I've worn it comfortably at a size ten, and at a size fourteen. The waist is lowered (not quite a drop waist, but close) which makes it comfortable to wear without concern for a belt. Today, I was able to slip it over my head without using any zippers, though heaven knows, I haven't lost any weight. This dress always fits perfectly-everyone should have a piece of clothing they can depend on. This is my dependable blue rayon dress. Oh, how I love this dress.

Outfit Particulars:

1940's rayon dress: thrifted at some long gone store on Southport in Chicago in the 80's
Necklace: Gordman's
Earrings: La Rel (came with a matching bracelet that I can't wear because it snags everything. Good match with the necklace though, eh?)
Bangles: Assorted thrift shops
Art Deco Ring: This was purchased at a thrift shop in Clinton, Mass in the early 90's. The setting is silver, the emeralds are real, save for one which appears to have been added later, and the white stones are rhinestone. This ring is a total mystery (why? Who? Why, why, why?) but it must have been well loved to go to the bother of replacing stones.
Sheets: Gift from the in-laws, something they bought in the 60's. It is such lovely soft fabric. I think it is destined for re-working as a dress.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Vintage Americana

 I thought this might be a good look for the fair.
 I swear to god, the lipstick demons came and messed up  my lips. They were even when I penciled them in this morning! My eyebrows look kick ass though.
Outfit Particulars:

Blouse: Vintage Wards (circa early 70's)
Cardigan: Retail. Gordman's about 15 years ago
Butterfly wing sweater clip-Gran's
Earrings: Retail, can't remember
Belt: Goodwill
Skirt: Thrifted. I like the vintage look and feel of it, but it is so thin whatever blouse or slip I wear beneath shows through, and looks rumpled. At my age, rumpled isn't a good look, so I'm afraid it is getting binned. I wouldn't feel right donating it for someone else to be displeased with.
Bangles: assorted thrift stores

Douglas County Fair


The fair was terrible. Because there were so few entrants in canning categories, they just awarded "Participation" ribbons, rather than an award to a single winner for each class. There weren't many ribbons. There were a few blue ribbons for pickles and jam-everything else was a wash. Danny was the only person in his class, so he came home with a participation ribbon-or rather he will because we need to go back tomorrow when they release the projects. It was much the same with baked goods-not a kolache or pie in sight. A poppyseed cake won.

Yeah, I'd look sad too. Nice work, Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben! Way to fuck up a fair. Maybe a total of ten jars? A cynical person might feel a bit scammed, like they knew most of those categories were going to be single entrants. This is not a "division." This, is a "few jars." I'm really annoyed. Again, I'm sure a good number of people just gave up trying to make sense of all the conflicting instructions.

Part of the problem was how disorganised the fair was. We had to call three different offices, got three different answers, and ended up paying the entry fee twice because one hand didn't know what the other was doing. The website had different dates from the booklet, and then they sent you more (different) information in the post. It was really maddening. The fair is really just an adjunct to the rodeo, which is where they put their efforts and money. I can see why there were so few participants-we wouldn't do this one again. My heart really went out to the person with the beautiful hand stitched quilt that lost a first prize ribbon to someone that cut fringe on a yard of fleece. How that ended up competing in the same class is beyond me.

The one bright spot (at least it made me laugh) was the person who entered the cake decorating with their take on The Exorcist. That should have won first prize. I've made  some crazy cakes in my day, but nothing on that scale. Well done!

Add to this the shit-kickers attending the rodeo giving everyone that looked "city" the stink eye, and I was ready to be done. Done. Except I'm not because I have to go back tomorrow, pay another $8.00 for parking, and pick up the ever-so-special, participation ribbon. I really feel if they don't have enough entries in a category you should get your entry fee back, but I'm sure no one would know who was supposed to make that decision.

We came home and planted out our garlic and tulips for next year. At least that was a good use of time.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Danny's Baked Haddock and Apple Squash

Danny felt well enough to cook dinner this evening (He'd planned it a week in advance) so I let him loose in the kitchen, and look what he came up with.
Recipes are as follows:

Baked Fish in a Covered Dish from Joy of Cooking, 1967 edition.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (we upped this to 400).
Place 2 lbs. of fish (Danny used Haddock) in an ovenproof dish, and salt it. Add 2 tablespoons clarified butter, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Pour over 2 tablespoons dry white wine. Cover, and bake until done-about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, make a sauce of 3 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons capers, 1 teaspoon chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon chives (he used scallions), 2 teaspoons lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over fish before serving.

Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash (Look, I didn't name it, OK?) From Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, 1966

2 acorn squashes
Boiling water
3 tart apples
 1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
Salt to taste (Danny used smoked salt)

Cut the squashes, and remove seeds and fibre. Place cut side down in a pan and fill with 1/2 inch boiling water. Place in a preheated 400 degree F. oven and bake 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pare, core, and chop the apples. Mix with melted butter and maple syrup. Sprinkle squashes with salt. Place filling in cavities of squash and cover tightly with foil. Bake another 30 minutes or until squashes and apples are tender. These re-heat well in the microwave.

For the rice:

Make basmati rice as you normally would, using vegetable broth in place of water. While rice cooks (or do ahead) sauté some mushrooms and scallions (and fresh thyme if you have it) in butter until the mushrooms give off most of their liquid. Add a splash of white vermouth, then boil until it evaporates. Remove from heat. When rice is cooked, fold the moisture through it and let it sit five minutes before serving.

Danny also served steamed broccoli, which is a treat as it has been terribly expensive, and we don't have it often.

This was another lovely meal, and he still has leftover money in his grocery budget to add to next week's allowance. I told him he could keep whatever is left at the end of the year, but so far he hasn't been feeding us rice and beans.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

And All My Toys Beside Me Lay, To Keep Me Happy All The Day

We're on day three of the viral yuck. Danny's had a fever, cough, and stomach pain. I've had the fever. Mr. ETB the headache and cough. By far, Danny has had the worst of it, and for a child that almost never gets sick, he's made up for lost time with this one. He's miserable.

Compounding his misery is the fact that last week he pushed me just a bit too far and I took away his tablet and computer privileges until November. There were "will nots" written as well. The timing is of course awful, because being sick in bed without a computer or a television means you're stuck with the radio, or a book. He's been tearing through The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the past few days, which is nice as I get to hear him laughing once in a while through his sickness.

Unable to stand the boredom any longer, he asked me to bring him a few toy cars from the packed away boxes in the cellar.

"Robert Louis Stevenson said you're supposed to play with toys when you're sick in bed." he informed me.
"Land of Counterpane?" I asked. "You remember I used to read those poems when we'd go out in the car? Papa would drive, and I'd read to you."

I can't believe he remembers that-he couldn't have been much more than three. Every weekend, we'd set off somewhere, and I'd start reading to keep him from fussing. I might have been reading those poems before he could understand the words. I'm sure he must have seen it recently, he has a pretty remarkable memory, but not that good.

He scattered the cars among the coverlet on my bed (because being ill in your own bed isn't as special as taking over your parent's king sized bed) and feebly moved them about in an attempt to play. He's living on tea, gingersnaps, and clear soup, but tonight managed a piece of stale bread to dunk in the soup. The high fever broke, but he's been stuck at 100.4 degrees F. for a while now. There's not much to do but let it run the course, and hope he'll be better soon.

The Douglas County Fair judging is this weekend for the preserved foods. I know Danny wants to win a ribbon (fingers crossed) but we'd also like to see what the competition was. I have a feeling he'll get there if he has to crawl, but I'd prefer he just get well. Being ill at Fair time is no fun.

Animal Print Boots

I'm not modeling these today, as I still don't know what to wear them with but here they are in all their glory. For heels like that, they are easy enough to walk in. The boots are tall (on me, 'caus I'm not) and come well over the knee. Maybe I need some zebra print leggings to complete the look.

The shoes and boots were all 1/2 price at the Goodwill, so these came to $7.00 Additionally, I get a "discount" (no, not the one they give for being old-you have to be 65 for that one) for being a teacher, which knocks an extra 10% off each item I purchase. I never thought I'd be the sort of person that got excited by an additional discount at the thrift store, but I come from a long line of cheapskates-I had an Aunt that would bring her morning tea bag to a restaurant, and order a pot of hot water. I haven't done that yet, but I was happy to pick up these brand-new, unworn boots so inexpensively.

The boots are lined, which is nice as the winters are pretty harsh here. They're made of a soft, almost velvet flocked material that I hope won't cling to whatever I wear them with.

Of course, they are only a bargain if I wear them, so off to study the wardrobe for something (un)suitable.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Best Thing I've Seen in a While

Because Danny's birthday falls  five days before Christmas, December tends to get a bit hectic around here. For his birthday, there's always a quilt based on whatever he's into that year, and an elaborate cake (I hope I never need to do the Periodic Table in decorated iced cookies again). For Christmas and Hanukah (the kid really scores in the presents come December) the gifts tend to be store bought (sometimes retail, but mostly thrifted) and small, with one major item like a microscope, or a fancy pair of binoculars, that sort of thing.  Today, I found one of the small gifts.

The kid has a really odd sense of humour (Can't imagine where he gets that from) and he likes his morning tea. When I saw this I knew I had to order it:

I'll bet no one he knows will have one of those!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Do You Sell Plungers Like You'd Use in a House Full of Frat Boys?"

...They Do!
Danny was less excited than I.

Sometimes I think he's embarrassed by us. While we're on a toilet theme, here's another vintage outfit modeled in the downstairs loo. I Didn't bother to edit out the facilities because come on, this is a post about buying a plunger. I sense a theme...

Outfit Particulars:

Dress and matching jacket: Vintage from a thrift store in Kansas
Bracelets: retail, Target
Necklace: Vintage Coro, Imaginarium, Omaha Nebr.
Shoes: Thrifted Laura Ashley

I don't like the way this dress fits me. It is much too large (By at least two sizes, and belting it makes things worse. The dress has cap sleves that hit the worst part of my arms, and the hemline isn't really good for me either). The amount of work required to tailor it into something I can wear effectively is more than I consider worth it. It will probably hang around in case I gain weight, but I don't expect to wear it again any time soon. Sometimes it is good to take things out, and photograph yourself wearing them for a view the bedroom mirror does not always provide.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"You're Not From Omaha, Are You?"

I am not from Omaha. I get the "Where are you from?" question all the time, but typically only after I open my mouth and the accent gives me away. Today I got it before I spoke, which was kind of satisfying knowing my manner of dress stands out from the crowd.

I'm enjoying growing older. Sure, there's the usual aging stuff I could do without (Three flights of stairs in this house...what was I thinking?!) but it is liberating to do as I please without worry. I'm not interested in recapturing my youth, or hiding my age. If I want to wear a silly hat, or outrageous shoes, I do it.

Just around the corner from where I live, there's a cosmetic surgery office with the most awful electronic billboard. Stuck at a light on Dodge Street, I can be treated to a flashing sign offering a, "Mommy Makeover", and then see the image of an anime-style cartoon woman in a bikini that is little more than boobs and a tiny waist. "Your bikini is ready...are you?" it asks. It isn't even a real woman, it is a grotesque distortion of a woman's features. If I want to wear a bikini I will, and anyone that doesn't want to look can turn away. Trust me, no one is looking at anyone our age, so go ahead and wear the bikini sans plastic surgery-buy yourself something you want instead.

I suppose that's why I stand out, I don't give a shit about perfecting myself. Maybe, if the dress really requires it for era authenticity, I will give in and wear a girdle. But to look thinner? Good god no. When I was younger I worked in the foundations department at Filene's in Boston. It was the saddest job I ever held. Skinny, bony, women in their middle age would come in and buy these horrible contraptions (This was the era before Spanx) spanning from bustline to thighs, complaining they were getting fat. You couldn't reason with them, so I sold the torturous  undergarments and went home each evening feeling terrible. Boobs sag, waistlines spread. Even the most athletic will see changes in their bodies because they are aging. A boob lift and liposuction isn't going to change reality-at least not my reality.

I was at the thrift store trying on a pair of thigh high leopard print boots (!) when a woman my age caught my eye.
"Hey, that's the privilege of getting older, you can wear the crazy boots without trying to look sexy." I said. I bought the boots. A few aisles over she ran into me again as I was checking out a leather skirt. We both laughed. I bought that skirt as well, because I can wear it in my own kooky way.

No, I'm not from Omaha, but I've been in Nebraska long enough to know there's more than a bit of social pressure on women to look a certain way. The height of this was when everyone got the same haircut that looked all chopped in layers at the back. It is a terrible haircut, made worse by foil streaking, but everywhere I went, I noticed it. I don't know about you, but I don't really want to look like everyone else. If that sets me aside as an outsider, that's fine and dandy. There's enough conformity in the world already where you don't have a choice. Putting on a crazy hat and some fancy shoes is an easy call. I mean, Thigh high leopard print boots people-if I hadn't bought them some drag queen would have. The queens get all the great shoes in large sizes at the thrift store. For once, my big fat feet got there first.

I'm only sorry I didn't have this sense and confidence when I was younger. Could have saved quite a bit of unhappiness along the way.

A Fun 30's Crepe Dress and a Vogue Hat

It was a beautiful day, with no chance of rain so I took my best dress and hat out for a jaunt.
The beautiful garden is an atrium at the local Extension Office.
This lovely moth had me fooled for a moment thinking it might be a hummingbird.
I'm quite protective of my Vogue hat, stamped "Paris." It has lived in a hatbox on the top shelf of my cupboard for at least twenty years. Those are a cluster of feathers to the side, though they blend well with my hair.
This was the first wear for this handbag. I like it, though it has just *barely* enough room for all the modern stuff like phones, eppi pens, and the bottle of liquid Benadryl I need to carry for sudden reactions. In the 50's if you got an allergic reaction you were probably a gonner.

The dress has caplet sleeves fastened with rings. I think it was the feature that attracted me to the dress.
I bought these shoes around 1980 for more money than I had ever spent, or have spent since. They were an insane purchase, the sort of thing you only do when single, and slightly out of your mind. I've taken good care of them, and I like them, but my mother was probably correct for freaking out when she saw the receipt. I was working, had money of my own to spend, and these shoes were my over-the-top purchase. They are comfortable though-I guess they should be for that kind of dough!
Outfit Particulars:
1930's Dress: Thrifted
Vogue Hat: A thrift store in New Hampshire circa 1992
Shoes: retail, circa 1980
50's handbag: Ruby Begonia's, Lincoln Nebraska
Necklace: Mum's from the 60's
Bracelet: Mum's from the 70's
Crystal Earrings: Gran's 1930's
Double Cameo Ring: Gran's 1920's possibly early 30's
We hit the mother of all jumble sales today to benefit the Sarpy County Historical Society. That will be another post, but we got there late when everything was 1/2 off. I have a new pair of 50's bedside lamps, Italian silk scarves, Fire King bowls, Damask Napkins, and a demitasse set. Oh, and patterns, and lace trims, and, and, and. They do this every year, so mark your calendars for 2014!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Danny's Curried Potatoes

This Friday Danny made a dinner of baked tofu served with apple chutney in homemade pitas, and this beautiful potato dish. Once again, he's turned to the Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery for inspiration.

Just look at that mid-sixties photography.

You Will Need:

1 minced small onion
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups cooked, cold diced potatoes
1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
 1/2 cup chicken stock (or vegetable)

Cook the onion in the butter over medium heat 5 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until most of the butter has been absorbed. Add the curry powder, lemon juice, and stock. Cook until it is all absorbed and bottom of pan is dry. Serve hot.


Beth Hensperger's Apple Sour Cream Muffins


We're nearly through the load of apples, but I was determined to make these muffins as they freeze so well. I like to individually wrap the muffins before sealing them together for the freezer. The muffins, if tossed into a lunch sack early in the morning , will thaw by lunchtime to surprise your birdwatchers. Well, my birdwatchers-I don't know what the people you bake for do at the weekend.

Unlike most muffin recipes, this one requires you to fill the cups right to the top, so that they dome beautifully. Because the topping is a bit on the crumbly side, I placed the tins atop a baking sheet because I don't enjoy cleaning the oven.

The recipe makes 12 large muffins

From The Best Quick Breads by, Beth Hensperger, 2000

You Will Need:

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar1/3 cup plain flour
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon bicarb
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts-we substituted quick oats
2 tablespoons dried currants (I had raisins that I chopped small)
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 cups apples, cored and chopped (I pared them, but the recipe does not insist)

Line your tins with paper liners or lightly grease them. Prepare the topping by combining the sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until you have large crumbs. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb, spices, salt, nuts (or oats) and currants (or raisins). In another bowl, combine the eggs. melted butter, and sour cream. Beat together with a whisk until blended. Add the chopped apples. Add all of this to the dry ingredients mixing only until combined.

Spoon the batter into the cups filling them right to the top. Cover each muffin with some of the topping. Bake on the centre rack of a preheated 375 degree F. oven. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the tops feel dry and a toothpick test indicates they are done. Do not overbake. Let the muffins sit in the tin five minutes before removing to a rack.

Thrifting at Home

This week's featured item is my grandmother's toy iron. Like the iron it represents, it would be heated on a stove to ready it for use. I've always used it as a paperweight on my desk, as it is quite heavy. I've never been tempted to try heating and using it, but I bet it would be great on seams!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Don't Put Up WIth Nonsense

In the years that we've homeschooled I've become accustomed to strangers asking questions when they meet Danny. I try to be a good ambassador for learning at home, but sometimes the best response is none. I'm not homeschooling as part of an anti-education agenda. I don't have any feelings about public school teachers except perhaps that they aren't paid nearly what they deserve for the work they do. I am teaching one child-I cannot imagine teaching thirty (or more). Still, when you do something outside the norm, it is understandable that it will be viewed as a judgment on someone else's decisions. I don't think most people should homeschool. Some days, I'm not certain I should, but here we are.

I don't demand strangers defend their educational decisions in the produce department of Hy-Vee at ten in the morning. I don't approach people without children, ask if they have children in school, then verbally abuse them. I don't. I can't honestly imagine a situation where I feel that would ever be warranted, yet if I step outside in a public space with my son on a weekday we become a target for rudeness. I don't put up with bullies, whether on playgrounds or in the produce department of Hy-Vee.

If I feel someone is asking questions out of genuine interest, and they are polite about it I am happy to discuss our experiences with homeschooling. We're secular homeschoolers, which tends to throw people as the image of homeschooling in America is largely faith based. I get many, many questions with respect to whether we teach science. We do. Oh, we do.

Somewhere between the potatoes and onions, a man barreled up to me, got very close into my personal space, and snarled, "Why isn't he in school?"

I did a quick mental assessment-he's obviously not a cop, or a truant officer, or a child welfare worker. Don't ask how I could be certain, but something signaled that I didn't need to engage this person in conversation. I didn't feel I owed him an explanation of any sort, so none was forthcoming. He followed after me a short way loudly demanding I answer. I kept walking. That was that, and he wandered off somewhere else in the store. I'm sure if I had replied that Danny is homeschooled, I would still be there, trapped into defending myself, so I didn't.

I'm not comfortable meeting rudeness with rudeness. I'm not pleased with myself for ignoring another human being as though he did not exist. I would do it again. I will never be comfortable, or happy with it, but I will do it again. If you approach me with demands, you had better be showing a badge (and possibly a warrant depending on the circumstances). I do have a certificate issued by the state that establishes us as a school. I've never felt the need to carry a copy on my person, but that is something I should perhaps consider.

Thankfully, most people I encounter haven't reached this level of rudeness. Believe it or not, there are some really lovely people out there which is all the more reason to stop wasting time and effort on the likes of that jerk.

1940's Rayon Dress-Powder Room Edition

-with a dirty mirror at that! Dear me, if I keep taking these mirror shots I should really make an effort to clean the mirror. *shrug*
I bought this dress years ago, when it was still only borderline vintage. It never fit well, as I suspect it once had shoulder pads and a matching belt. Still, the beading is enough to help me overlook the flaws, and the colour is perfect for my complexion. I can't wear bright pinks.
I mean, look at that beading, and embroidery.
And the buttons...
Obviously, a dress like this requires a pretty special handbag...
This was a gift from an elderly neighbor years ago. She made it from a kit where you do the embroidery, and send to have it put together. She's long gone, and I really treasure being able to be the caretaker of her needlework.
Seriously, this hair needs professional help. Some days I just want to take a pair of shears and go all pixie on it. I'm pretty sure I will at some point. I wonder if my specs are as smudged as they look in the photo? That would explain a lot. OK, mirror and eyewear get a cleaning today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Night Fever

Look what I found unpacking books today.

The introduction is...something.

Yeah! If my spirit were any freer I'd...probably not be doing the Hustle, but no matter, let's have a look at the lessons.

Oh, I know all about New York Bus Stops-that's where they try to grab your handbag. Actually, that was Penn Station, but let's see a diagram...

Well that doesn't look so terrible. I could probably manage that in my best glittery platforms.

Fuck...I think I twisted something that shouldn't twist.

All right kids, get out there and disco. You have The Hustle stuck in your head right now, don't you? No? Well here you go:

1960's Apple Pie

What strikes me about this recipe is how straightforward and plain it is by today's standards. No stem ginger, or dried cherries. No insistence that apples of a certain pedigree be used. No strange additions like fresh thyme (I like apples, and I like thyme, but I do not get that combination in a pie. I just don't). With the exception of the instant blend flour, most of these items are probably in your kitchen right now. I don't want to give the impression this is anything less than a wonderful pie-it is a wonderful pie. It just isn't unusual, or innovative, or something unique I dreamed up. Still, if you have some apples, and an hour to kill, this is as good a way to put them to use as any.

The pastry comes from Farm Journal's Complete Pie Book, 700 best dessert and main dish pies in the country, 1965. That sounds like quite a boast until you start making some of those pies and you think, "I wonder if I could cook my way through this book", and it isn't just some daydream, but something you (I) give serious consideration.

The filling comes from Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes, 1966. I love this cookbook, and I very nearly have cooked my way through it.

The pastry calls for an electric mixer to blend the dough. I've done it that way, but I still prefer to use a pastry cutter and add just as much water as the flour will take. I have adapted the method to reflect this because I honestly feel it is worth the few minutes of work cutting the butter into the dough. In the end you will have a pastry that is easier to handle, and bakes up light and flaky.

You Will Need:

For the Pastry:

1/3 plus 1 tablespoon ice water (have more on hand in case you need it)
3/4 cup shortening (I used unsalted butter because we prefer it)
2 cups instant type flour (I used Wondra)
1 teaspoon salt.

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until fine. Add water slowly adding just enough so that the dough comes together in a ball. It should be pliable without being too wet or dry.

This will make enough for 2 crusts.

For the Filling:

6 cups pared and sliced apples (I tossed mine with fruit fresh to prevent darkening)
3/4-1 cup sugar (I used the full cup as my apples were quite tart)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons plain flour
Dash of nutmeg and salt
2 tablespoons butter

Combine dry ingredients. Add apples and toss to coat. Pour into pie crust, dot with butter and affix top crust. I like to brush mine with cream and then scatter the top with coarse sugar, but that's just one of a million ways to decorate a pie. Cut vents, and place pie on a baking sheet (It WILL spill over) and bake 55-60 minutes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Woolens and Such

I went ahead and switched out my Summer clothes for Fall and Winter knowing that tomorrow is forecast around 90 degrees F. That's how it is around here, we go from heat to a frost-best to have everything ready to go.

In every place I've lived, my entire life, I have needed to pack away out of season clothing for storage in either an attic or basement. This is the first home where I have adequate cupboards. Admittedly, the whole of my Summer wardrobe could fit in a large plastic tub, but it is nice to know it can be easily stowed without much difficulty. Winter...well, I live in the Midwest and it is a terribly long season in these parts, so I have more than a few bulky sweaters and coats that take up space. Or they did-not here! What used to be a day of dragging clothes to the attic, and back down again took a short time, and very little effort. Living in a newer place has advantages-people just didn't have much clothing to store in the 1800's. In Boston we had these teeny, tinny, cupboards that were triangular in shape so you couldn't even fit a shoebox in there. We finally converted the spare bedroom into a walk in, but even then I felt deprived of adequate space. Don't even ask what the farm was like.

I'm an organized person by nature, but I've never been able to live in  a place that permitted me to indulge it. If only we could get the books into a more useable system. For now I'll just enjoy being able to find what I'm looking for, when I want to wear it.

Spiced Apple Pickles

This recipe is for crab apples, but I used small, under ripe golden and red delicious. The recipe is for pints, but I did mine in quarts. I have no idea  how these will turn out, but the apples held their shape without exploding which is always a good sign when bottling fruit. I added a bit of food colouring, but you could easily omit it. If you used light skinned apples you could do one batch red, and one green for Christmas. Wouldn't that upstage aunt Mildred's gelatin mould!

From the Ball Blue Book of Canning:

2 quarts crab apples with stems-about 2 1/2 pounds
6 cups sugar
3 cups vinegar (I used cider)
3 cups water
2 sticks cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons allspice
1 1/2 tablespoons whole cloves.

Day One:

Prick apples to prevent bursting, and set aside (I used a toothpick). Combine sugar, vinegar, and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Tie spices in a bag (or cheesecloth) and add to mixture. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add apples one layer at a time. Simmer until tender. Remove apples from liquid and set in a large bowl. Bring liquid to a boil. Ladle liquid over apples and cover. Let stand 12-18 hours in a cool place.

Day Two:

Heat jars. Return pickling liquid to a large saucepot and bring to a boil. Pack apples into hot jars, pour over liquid. Remove air bubbles, wipe treads clean, and seal. Process 15 minutes for pints, 20 for quarts. Let stand in canner 5 minutes before removing to a spot that is not drafty. Leave undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Makes 2 quarts or about 6 pints.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Spiced, Pickled Apples-Day 1

 Believe it or not, I've made a considerable dent in that pile of apples.

This is a two day process. The apples must sit for 12-18 hours in the pickling syrup with the spices before being bottled next day. The recipe is for crabapples, but I'm trying it with some, small, under ripe cooking apples. They are the size, and hardness of crabapples, so I'm optimistic. These will be nice to have around Thanksgiving.

I'll update when they're completed with a recipe.

Curried Meatless Pies

 Would you look at those flaky layers?

I won't call these vegetarian as there's butter in the puff paste, and an egg wash, but the filling is made with frozen soya meat substitute. I also wouldn't call it health food as there's a cup of butter in that dough. The recipe will make five large pies, so at least you will have several servings from it. I made my own puff paste because I know how, and I was home all day. I also had a stash of expensive butter. Some people have drug stashes, I have organic pasture butter. I'm not sure which is worse.

As I've posted the recipe, and instructions for puff paste here before, I'll keep this focused on the filling, assembly, and baking. You can of course buy puff paste, and only a jerk would fault you for it. You shouldn't cook for jerks.

You Will Need:

Puff paste (a store bought package, or a homemade batch made with 2 cups flour and 1 cup butter ratio).
2 cups frozen vegetarian mince (I used Morningstar, because it was on sale. They're all pretty much the same TVP base as far as I'm concerned).
2 large baking potatoes, peeled, finely diced and chilled in cold water
2 large baking apples, pared, cored, and diced
1 large, sweet onion, diced
1 small red pepper, chopped
Cooking oil 2-3 tablespoons
Madras curry powder to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala
Salt to taste (you'll have to adjust according to the sodium content of your fake mince)

Drain the potatoes, and dry very thoroughly on a kitchen towel. Meanwhile, heat a heavy skillet and add about 2 tablespoons oil (you can add more later if you need it). Cook the potatoes over medium heat until they soften and begin to form a crust. Add the onion, pepper, curry powder and garam masala. Cook until onions are soft and golden. Add the frozen mince and break it up with a spatula. Cook another five minutes or so. Cool this mixture completely before filling the pies.

To assemble:

Grease your pie moulds.

Roll your puff paste very thin-about 1/2 inch thickness. You will need a top and bottom for each. I just barely got five working with scraps at the end. These are pretty forgiving, so don't worry too much if they don't look perfect. Fill the pies generously. Adjust the top piece, then with a sharp knife, make cuts all around the edge-this will give it a nice puffed appearance. I like to chill it again-maybe ten minutes while the oven preheats to 425 degrees F.  Brush with an egg yolk and a few drops of water. Place the moulds on a baking sheet, and set in the oven for ten minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and cook another 35 minutes or so until done. Carefully loosen, and unmould onto a rack. Serve with a good chutney (I made apple date).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Levi's Rockabilly Jeans

My "photographer" (Danny) had other stuff to do (Comic books), so I did the camera in the mirror thing. I even snapped some photos in the downstairs loo because I thought you might be getting tired of looking at the shower curtain.

We call these my $700.00 jeans because there are some listings for them at that price. They range from about $400 up, depending on condition. Mine are excellent, they were deadstock from the 50's when I bought them twenty years ago. I've probably worn them a dozen times total. If anyone wants to give me $700.00 for these...well no, I'd rather see you put that money towards having your head examined. I admit, I thought about selling them, but I enjoy them, and I really would feel uncomfortable with that level of transaction for what was essentially a pair of Western pants designed for work. Sometimes I'm too Bolshie for my own good.

My favourite shirt, purchased at Principles about fifteen years ago. It was an awful trip, I was arguing with Mr. ETB, I was jet-lagged, and I saw this blouse in the window. I'm not much of a High Street shopper, but I've never regretted this white blouse. My only regret is not buying a dozen because I will never find another that suits me as well.

Yes, the heart shaped earrings were meant for children. And old ladies. So there.

Diamond shaped mother of pearl snaps. Arrow shaped belt loops.

They are worn cuffs turned up, as they are intended.

In other news...

We took a trip to Ditmar's Orchard today
 "Well, how about them apples?"

 Such a sweet, innocent looking child.
He horrified an orchard worker by telling her Honeycrisp apples are, "vile." People really seem to like them, but they are so cloying they don't have any character. They're awfully expensive as well. We came home with Reds, Goldens, JonaGolds, some local peaches, and something called, Redfree which is a new variety to us.
I like this orchard so much better than the place in Nebraska city. The apples are still on the somewhat expensive side, but the vibe of the place is nicer. They don't charge a fortune just to step on the property. The orchard is very, very, hilly. You should bring a couple strong people to carry your apples. It was raining today (and chilly, imagine that!) but we didn't get too terribly muddy. The trails are well trodden.

If I had too many apples before...well, it isn't any better now! I see strudel(s) in my immediate future.  Oh, and I bought cider. I should have bought more. Oh well, there's still next weekend. I'm sure we'll be back several times before the season is over.